Essential tips for parents of University students
So the time has finally come – your child is fleeing the nest to start their new life at University.
As a parent you are bound to have mixed feelings – whilst you are undoubtedly proud of your son or daughter, it’s inevitable that you’ll worry about them being away from home for the first time.
For young adults, university can be the first time they learn to be independent and really discover themselves so however much you may feel like hovering on the side-lines, it’s usually best to let them take their own journey, although there is no harm in some gentle encouragement.
So what exactly can you do to set them on the right path to independent living?
Teach them to cook
Fresher’s week can be a bit of a whirlwind of meeting new people and social events so it’s forgivable if your teenager lives off takeaways and convenience food for a week or two while things settle down.
But knowing how to rustle up a few simple, budget friendly recipes can help to make things a little easier as term draws on. Whilst you still have them at home, get them to help you out in the kitchen and make sure they know the basics, and don’t let them leave home without arming them with a couple of good recipe books.
And do their own laundry
If you want to conjure up an image of the stereotypical lazy student, it’d be one who arrives home each term with an industrial size bag full of their dirty laundry – expecting their parents to do it for them.
Encourage them to do their own washing at home so they’re confident to do it once they’ve moved out. Home visits are precious so you don’t want to be spending the weekend washing their socks!
Talk about money
One of the biggest challenges for any university student is managing their own finances. You may think you are being helpful by offering the services of the Bank of Mum and Dad but ultimately that isn’t teaching them the basics of independent living. Sit down together and look at their everyday living expenses, what income they’ll be getting (whether this is from student loans or a part-time job) and discuss ways of budgeting to get them through the year. It’s useful to look at Student bank accounts that offer interest-free overdrafts but also chat to them about the realities of debt.
As a parent you’ve probably had this talk with them many a time, but it’s probably a subject you’ll want to tackle again before they leave for university. Your teenager may cringe when you talk to them about safe-sex, not getting into cars with a drunk driver or not to walk home unaccompanied but hopefully a few gentle reminders will make them think about things a little more.
The truth is, once they’re no longer under your roof you can’t possible know what they are up to so having a trusting relationship will go a long way to making you feel reassured. And don't forget that there is also plenty of support available once at university should they need it.
Offer your (silent) support
The first few weeks can be hectic, and it can take a while to settle into a routine so try to give them space to do so. Some teenagers may need a little more reassurance than others so let them know that you are there for them if and when they need you but try to resist checking in with them constantly.
Of course you will worry if you don’t hear from them for weeks on end, but a weekly call on a set day might not always be realistic so between you try to have some flexibility and just encourage them to check in with you on a regular basis.
Enjoy your own freedom
Finally, it’s time to think about yourself. University isn’t just a new chapter for your son or daughter but it’s also an opportunity for you to enjoy your freedom, whether it’s having time to take up a new hobby or just enjoying the peace and quiet at home!